Christmas tree, jigsaw or bullseye? A rough guide to post-2015 frameworks

The last week or so has been truly post-2015-tastic, not least here on GD.  There are so many ideas flying around that it’s hard to untangle what people are actually talking about.  Here’s my handy cut-out-and-keep guide to the three possible post-2015 frameworks which seem to be implied by current discussions:

1.  The Christmas tree. Lots of people are lobbying for their particular issue to be given its own new goal.  And why not – that’s the lobbyists’ job, and there are a lot of problems out there which might benefit from the attention that would come with having their own goal.

Lobbyists need to lobby, but governments need to choose.  If the post-2015 process goes no further than handing out baubles to single issue groups without thinking hard about how it all fits together, we’ll end up with a long list of disparate goals – all important in their own right, but together making up a list so long that governments will almost certainly ignore it.  The impact on actual lives would be close to nil.

2. The Jigsaw.  There’s a second set of ideas which involves a framework organised around a few core objectives, aimed at solving a number of big global problems simultaneously.  It might involve a combination of goals on development and poverty plus some other objectives around, for example, conflict, human rights or well-being.  This would be better than the Christmas tree – more technically sound, more coherent, and more likely to have some impact on people’s lives – if, and it’s a big if, it could be agreed politically. The ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, which link development and environmental objectives might, if that’s what we end up with, look like a jigsaw-type framework.

The big question here is the politics – could such an agreement be agreed in a form that made it actually meaningful and useful for policy makers and campaigners?  We should probably be doubtful, given the current state of negotiations on climate, trade and other tricky subjects – but if it could be made to work, the gains could be big.

3. The Bullseye.  This type of framework involves narrowing down the agenda even more, and focusing on one single global problem. One idea currently gaining traction is to have goals aimed at ending absolute poverty at a global level, an ambition that is eminently achievable within the lifetime of the next round of goals.  As part of solving that problem, there could be goals on, for example, raising everyone’s incomes to above $1.25 a day, ensuring that everyone had access to healthcare, that everyone could read and write and had basic maths, even that everyone had access to transport infrastructure and mobile communications.

Developing an implementation plan would be easier with a more straightforward overall objective.  There could be a more interesting approach to development partnerships – for example, incentives for private sector innovation and investment to reach the agreed goals. And a strong story and a clear implementation plan would increase the chances of a bullseye agreement having a real impact on people’s lives.

At the moment, it’s not at all clear which of the three types of agreement will win out.  Different groups have very different ideas about the risks and opportunities contained in each – and of course, as ever, the eventual agreement will be an uneasy marriage of the political and the technical.  The next three years are certainly going to be interesting….